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Newlyweds Earn MBAs Together

Francine and Mike Perry

March 2011


As a part of its 10-year anniversary celebration, the MBA Waterloo program offers the following alum story.

It may not have been a typical newlywed experience, but Michael and Francine Perry describe earning their MBA degrees together as a great experience. "The common goal of obtaining a degree and working as a team to keep a household going brought us closer together."

When did you earn your MBA? What were you doing at the time?
(Francine) We were part of the class of 2005. Both of us were working for John Deere Waterloo Works, Mike as the safety director at Engine Works, and I was a drivetrain engineer for the Product Engineering Center.

What prompted you to pursue your MBA?
Mike and I believe in continual education, both formal and informal. Mike already had his master's in occupational safety and health when we met. I wanted to obtain a graduate degree, as well. We debated on whether that would be a master's in engineering or an MBA. In the end, we were both interested in the overall strategy of businesses and how the functional areas worked together for a common goal, and we really wanted to go through a program together.

What was it like to go through the MBA program together? Do you have any stories?
Going through the program together had its challenges as well as its rewards. We learned very early on, to manage our time well—working full time, attending class and studying. Laundry, dishes and grocery shopping still needed to be completed. Multi-tasking and "divide and conquer" were techniques we learned, perfected, and still practice today!

On typical class days, one person would rush home to take care of the dog before class while the other picked up a take-out supper. We balanced our life with exercise; I played tennis and Mike ran. Those were good stress relievers.

Being in the program together had the advantages of a live-in study partner, one set of books, and a shared understanding of the experience, getting to know the same classmates and professors. When one of us would feel stressed out, the other would inspire. The common goal of obtaining a degree and working as a team to keep a household going, brought us closer together.

Who was your favorite professor, and why?
St. Ambrose has many good professors and instructors. Mike and I requested Dave Ray to hood us at our graduation ceremony. We enjoyed his personality and his ability to unfold concepts and information in an understandable manner.

Were there any "ah-ha" moments during your education?
John Deere has all-employee meetings where financial information is shared. I remember being at one of these meetings after I started the MBA program, realizing that it was the first time I fully understood all the terms and significance of the metrics. 

How has earning your MBA informed your work?
Design engineers make changes to product that impact the overall machine financials. From determining the part material to understanding the impact on service organization, business needs must be balanced with design requirements. I have to admit that engineers tend to get caught up in the details. The MBA coursework taught me to review the overall strategy and impact on the total organization. I also have a greater appreciation for persons involved in other functions. Mike has found the leadership skills reviewed during the MBA to be very helpful in driving change throughout the organization.

What is your current position at Deere? Did that change as a result of earning your degree?
While we are in the same positions at Deere, our effectiveness and development has improved. We are very grateful to Deere for allowing us to pursue this degree. We were committed to obtaining the degree, but Deere was also committed to us as employees by providing the tuition reimbursement and the support of our supervisors. We feel privileged.

What would you like others to know about the value of a St. Ambrose MBA?
St. Ambrose is a wonderful choice for working professionals and very convenient for John Deere employees. When any of us were out of town due to business, professors were very understanding and worked with us regarding our homework assignments. And the friendships we formed with classmates are still intact today.

MORE LIKE THIS:For Alumni, Master of Business Administration

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